The teaching force has “ballooned,” according to CPRE. Pre K-12 teachers make up the largest occupation group in the U.S., and they’re growing at a higher rate than the student population.
Some factors contributing to this growth include the number of prekindergarten teachers, ESL teachers, special education teachers, and those teaching elementary enrichment classes such as art, music, or computer science to most students in elementary schools.
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While the teaching force has gotten older and retirement has increased, this trend is not as dramatic as predicted a decade ago. However, because of the increase in retiring teachers, there will be cost implications for both schools and states when it comes to budgets and pensions.
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The number of new teachers has increased from the 1980s. There were 65,000 first-year teachers in 1987-88, and over 200,000 by 2007-08.
While most are recent college graduates, a good portion of the teaching force is older but new to the profession. According to the CPRE report, the implications of this trend are that “new teachers can be a source of fresh ideas and energy.” But on the other hand, being taught by veteran teachers “can make a positive difference for students’ academic achievement.”
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The number of females entering the teaching profession has gone up since the 1980s. The number of male teachers has also increased, but not nearly as much as the number of women.
If this trend continues, according to the report, “very soon 8 of 10 teachers in the nation will be female. An increasing percentage of elementary schools will have no male teachers...Given the importance of teachers as role models, and even as surrogate parents for some students, certainly some will see this trend as a problem and a policy concern.”
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A lack of minority teachers was seen as a major problem in the 1980s and 1990s. The good news is this trend is shifting. There were 325,000 minority teachers in 1987-88 and over 642,000 by 2007-08. The growth rate of minority teachers outpaced the rate of white teachers.
According to the report:
The widespread efforts over recent decades to recruit more minority teachers and place them in schools serving disadvantaged and minority student populations have been very successful. This has been something of an unheralded victory. While commentators and researchers have tended to discuss the minority teacher shortage and the outcome of minority recruitment efforts in dire and pessimistic terms, the data show that such efforts and expenditures have worked very well.
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Consistent in Academic Ability
Teachers’ academic ability has been consistent over the last few decades.
According to the report, “About a tenth of newly hired first-year teachers come from the top two categories of higher education institutions. About a quarter come from the bottom two categories. Two thirds of first-year teachers come from middle-level institutions.”
These statistics have fluctuated slightly since the 1980s, but not by much.
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Despite the influx of teachers from different backgrounds, the teaching force has steadily become less stable. According to the report, between 40 to 50 percent of beginning teachers leave the profession within five years. There was a 34 percent increase from 1998 to 2008 in the number of teachers leaving the profession after one year.
A negative result of teacher turnover, according to the report, is that the rates are a “major factor behind the problems that many schools have staffing their classrooms with qualified mathematics, science and other teachers. Increases in turnover among minority teachers, especially in disadvantaged schools, undermine efforts to recruit new teachers in hard-to-staff schools and to diversify the teaching force.”
However, the report states that all of this data also suggests a big opportunity. “The largest occupation in the nation is being expanded, replaced, and re-made.”
Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles.Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com